Uganda will soon have a new Fisheries and Aquaculture law, if the proposed Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2018, being reviewed, is approved by Cabinet.
The proposed law is a revision of the Fish Act of 2000 Cap 197, which only regulates capture fish and does not address aquaculture activities. These include management of commercial fishing, fish selling, post-harvest handling, fish transportation, surveillance and control monitoring of fisheries units as well as fisheries research.
The Bill is part of efforts by Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries to provide an enabling policy and regulation framework to the stakeholders engaged in fisheries and aquaculture activities.
Why fisheries sector is crucial to Uganda’s economy
The fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors contribute significantly to Uganda’s national economic growth, development as well as food and nutrition.
Uganda has one of the largest fresh water resources in the world with almost 20 percent of its surface area covered with water. The expansive water resources have supported the fisheries sector, enabling both capture and farmed fisheries since 1920s.
The sector contributes about 12 percent of agricultural GDP of Uganda and supplies 50 percent of animal proteins consumed in the country. Despite the above economic benefits, the fisheries sector in the country, according to critics, is under-performing due to challenge that needs to be addressed through having strong legal regimes.
Some of the challenges that the new Law may address are the issues related to use of illegal fishing gear, poor quality fish seeds, limited access to fish seeds and feeds as well as continued trade in illegal and unrecorded immature fish. Such challenges are said to be costing Uganda about US$ 429 million in income lost annually.
Addressing stakeholders during a National Validation Workshop of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, at Colline Hotel in Mukono on January 25, Minister for Agriculture Vincent Ssempijja said the current Law is out-dated thus the need for government to come up with new regulations that will support the development of the fisheries sector in the country.
“While the Fish Act, Cap 197, provides for the control of fishing, fish conservation, purchase, sale, marketing, processing of fish, it is now out-dated to address current technological advancement and the changed fisheries sector,” he said.
He added that, “The Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill is long awaited in Parliament and should be finalized as soon as possible” to facilitate its enactment into law.
The workshop was organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAOA) of the United Nations.
Sustainable food production
Speaking during the workshop, FAO Representative in Uganda, Mr Antonio Querido said that the proposed Bill will help to regulate developments in the fisheries and aquaculture sub-sectors, while fostering sustainable and nutritious food production in Uganda.
“If not regulated, aquaculture can become a potential risk to the environment such as increased water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Unplanned aquaculture can also lead to competition among other resource users that can degenerate into conflicts,” he said.
Unplanned aquaculture can also lead to competition among other resource users that can degenerate into conflicts
Participants who include key stakeholders in the sector used the meeting to review the current version of the draft Bill, validated it and produced a final version of the Draft Fisheries and Aquaculture Bill, 2018, that will subsequently be sent to cabinet for approval.
The validation workshop was held on the backdrop of regional and country-wide consultations that generated views from relevant regional and local government stakeholders, on the proposed Bill.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO